If Congress doesn't stop the U.S. war in Syria, the bombs raining down on Syria will likely be the beginning of another open-ended, multi-billion U.S. war in the Middle East. The American public can help stop this war the same way it stopped U.S. war in Syria last year: flooding Capitol Hill with the message that people in the U.S. don't want another war in the Middle East.
Congress has not yet signed off on waging a protracted war in Syria or in Iraq. The "People's Branch" can still stop the Obama administration from wreaking more death and destruction in an already explosive part of the world.
Despite What You May Have Heard, Congress Didn't Approve War
Before leaving for recess last week, Congress gave a short-term approval for the Administration to arm and train Syrian rebel groups. However, various members of Congress spoke out in staunch opposition to the plan, and even many of those speaking in favor of the move did so reluctantly. In the end the authorization approved was included in a stop-gap spending bill to fund the government through December 11.
More than a third of the House voted against arming the Syrian opposition, and other members voted for it only on the condition that restrictions were included on the president's plan. Those restrictions included the disclaimer that nothing in the measure to aid the Syrian opposition "shall be construed to constitute a specific statutory authorization for the introduction of United States Armed Forces into hostilities or into situations wherein hostilities are clearly indicated by the circumstances."
While this vote has been widely misreported in the media as a blank check for U.S. war in Iraq and Syria, in fact what Congress approved was a two and a half month probationary period for the president to arm and train rebel groups, with various limitations attached.
This means that after Congress returns from the elections, foremost on the agenda will be the question of whether Congress renews its approval for the president to continue arming and training the opposition past December 11.
3 Reasons to Stop U.S. Bombs in Syria:
Lawmakers must also go further, and weigh in to stop the U.S. bombing of Syria and Iraq. This war only escalates the bloodshed for three very clear reasons:
1) Bombing is Killing People, Including Civilians: The president's new war in Syria, launched without congressional authorization or approval from the United Nations, has already escalated the bloodshed. U.S. airstrikes in Syria have reportedly already killed civilians, including children.
2) Bombs Can't Destroy IS, but Bombs Can Recruit for IS: The Islamic State cannot be bombed out of existence. In fact, the Islamic State was bombed into existence by the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq unleashing widespread sectarian violence that continues to ravage Iraq today. The Syrian civil war continued to fuel the rise of IS, and IS has only expanded since the U.S. renewed airstrikes in Iraq last month.
While bombs can't destroy IS, bombs can help IS recruit new fighters and financial support from Syrians and Iraqis willing to resort to violence to oppose U.S. military intervention. As my colleague Colonel (ret.) Lawrence Wilkerson and I have pointed out, every additional U.S. bomb is a recruiting bonanza for the Islamic State.
3) Every Bomb Lengthens the War, Delays a Political Solution to End Violence: Ultimately, the only way to stop IS from continuing to gain power is to secure a political settlement to the related but separate crises in Syria and Iraq. Bombing will only harden opposition in the Syrian regime, the armed rebel groups, and even among the population at large to seek that political solution.
A political solution to end the bloodletting in will require engaging all relevant stakeholders in the Syrian and Iraqi crises respectively.
In Iraq, that means engaging tribal and other local leaders in Sunni-majority provinces that have long been marginalized by the U.S.-backed Iraqi government. It's important to engage leaders that have clout in Sunni-majority areas of Iraq where the U.S.-backed Iraqi security forces have committed grave human rights violations, stoking widespread resentment against both the Iraqi central government as well as U.S. military intervention.
In Syria, a political settlement will require engaging internal and external parties to the conflict, including, Iran. The U.S. has blocked U.N. efforts to include Iran in the Geneva II negotiations on ending the violence in Syria, which has only made matters worse. Foreign policy expert Phyllis Bennis has long made the astute observation that the war raging in Syria for years is actually a conflagration of six wars. One of those six wars is a proxy war between the U.S. and Iran.
U.S. must de-escalate its tensions with Iran to help save lives in Syria. The preliminary agreement to reign in Iran's nuclear program demonstrates that Washington and Tehran can work together to help make the world a safer place. Excluding Iran from the negotiating table will not stop the destructive role that Tehran, along with Washington, have played in Syria. The U.S. should capitalize on Tehran's influence with the Syrian regime to help save lives in Syria.
There are other steps the U.S. can take to counter the Islamic State through non-military solutions, but it will first require an end to the bombing, and the beginning of working toward a political solution.
Urge your members of Congress to take a stand against bombing Syria, and another protracted U.S. war in the Middle East.